Sarah Palin’s Alaska: A Culture of Corruption

Given the last two posts focusing on the corruption that has become synonymous with “Sarah Palin” it seems only appropriate to review a summary of corruption that relates to Sarah Palin and Ted Stevens.

A broad federal investigation of public corruption was conducted in Alaska, beginning in 2004, and became widely known in Aug. of 2006, the year Palin was elected Governor. That’s when teams of federal agents executed search warrants at more than 20 locations around the state, including the offices of six state legislators. The most high profile investigation and trial involved U.S. Senator Ted Stevens. He represented Alaska in the Senate for 40 years and was the most senior Senate Republican in history. As chairman of the Appropriations Committee, he was among the Senate’s most powerful members, and steered hundreds of millions of dollars in federal money to Alaska programs. On Oct. 27, 2008, a jury in Washington, D.C. convicted him of all seven counts of lying on his financial disclosures. Two weeks later, he lost his bid for re-election. Stevens was indicted on July 29, 2008 – a year after federal agents raided and searched his Girdwood home. He was granted the speedy trial his lawyers pushed for, but lost his bid to have the trial moved to Alaska.

On April 1, 2009, the U.S. Justice Department moved to drop the case against him in light of new information that prosecutors withheld key information from Stevens and his lawyers during the trial, and on April 7, the judge agreed. “In nearly 25 years on the bench, I’ve never seen anything approaching the mishandling and misconduct that I’ve seen in this case,” U.S. District Judge Emmet Sullivan said. The case focused on the the renovation of of Stevens’ Girdwood home begun in 2000 and his relationship with the Allen. The indictment charges Stevens with making false statements by failing to disclose “things of value” he received from Veco Corp., the now-defunct Alaska-based oil services and construction company, and from its chairman, Bill Allen, in a scheme that stretched over seven years. At the same time, according to the indictment, Allen and other Veco employees asked Stevens to intervene on their behalf with the government, and Stevens sometimes obliged.

On April 7, 2009, the conviction was dropped. It’s unclear to what extent the decision to drop the Stevens case had on the ongoing investigation. In the aftermath of the Stevens dismissal, government officials would only say that the overall inquiry remains active, but have provided no details.

Authorities have repeatedly declined to discuss the overall shape of the inquiry, where it’s headed or what’s being investigated. In 2008, they disclosed the government’s name for it: “Operation Polar Pen,” which stems from the investigation of efforts to build a private prison in Alaska by a private joint venture that includes the oil services and construction company Veco.

Palin shocked and angered Stevens by publicly criticizing him for his role in VECO. Palin backed the opponent of Stevens in his race for re-election to Senate. Steven’s reaction to Palin’s criticism was not surprising given her ties to VECO. When she ran for lieutenant governor in 2002, “she gathered $5,000 — or about 10 percent of her campaign fund — from Veco officials or their wives,” including $500 from CEO Bill Allen.

The history of Palin and Stevens is complicated. In Palin’s 2006 race for governor, after she ousted Governor and former U.S. Senator Frank Murkowski in the Republican primary, Stevens withheld his support for Palin. Palin was locked in what looked like a tight race in the general election, and three weeks before the election, Palin welcomed a Stevens endorsement, even releasing a campaign commercial of the event, featuring Stevens offering support of Palin, with Palin smiling mightily in the background.

In July of 2008 Stevens and Palin held a joint news conference, denying that there was any political distance between them. This was at a time before the indictment of Stevens, but after an FBI raid on Stevens home, and after the scope of the investigation of Stevens was clear. Certainly there was an indication that Stevens and Palin were closely aligned…at least when it was to Palin’s benefit. Palin’s name was listed on 2003 incorporation papers of Ted Stevens Excellence in Public Service, Inc. a 527 group that could raise unlimited funds from corporate donors. Palin served as one of three directors. Stevens was indicted in July 2008, shortly before Palin was tapped as McCain’s running mate. Palin spokeswoman did not provide a response to questions about the 527. Palin, the anti-corruption crusader in Alaska, had called on Stevens to be open about the issues behind the investigation. But she also held a joint news conference with him in July, before he was indicted, to make clear she had not abandoned him politically. 

Immediately after Palin was tapped as McCain’s running mate data on the internet connecting Stevens and Palin disappeared. One investigative reporter said:

“ I thought I had better do some searches earlier than later in the event important data get scrubbed, as was the case just today with Stevens’ endorsement of her.

Sure enough, when I went to search for connections between Ted Stevens and Palin on her gubernatorial website, I found that the links to her press releases go dead starting from the middle of July 2007 and all preceding.

So I went to the Wayback Machine. Some oddities popped up there too. I couldn’t get links to press releases from newer versions of the website, but did manage to track down this page, which lists, in March 2007,

Governor Meets with Senator Stevens

And when you click the link, you get this release:

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: May 29, 2003 No. 03-122

Murkowski Announces Grimes as Head of State Troopers


Not to be deterred, I tried a basic google search for “Governor Meets with Senator Stevens.” A-ha!There it is. Except that long sought after link clicks to a list of releases that does not include the Stevens’ one.

Thank goodness for the cached option:

“It is so encouraging to hear again that Senator Stevens and I are singing from the same sheet of music,” said Governor Palin. “In his address, he pushed for action this year on a natural gas pipeline. I also have the Senator’s assurance that once the state has acted on the AGIA, our Congressional Delegation will do everything it can do to expedite the federal review of the natural gas pipeline project.”

I have to wonder whether that choice paragraph had something to do with why I had to go through several hoops to track down this press release (which I will reproduce for posterity below the fold).

And if you’re wondering about this natural gas pipeline, it’s the same one Dick Cheney was discovered to be personally bullying the Alaskan legislature about on behalf of Stevens (as he himself explained to VECO’s Bill Allen).”  This report was posted on Aug. 30, 2008.

Palin refused to comment about whether she supported Stevens during his trial. After the conviction of Stevens was set aside due to prosecutorial misconduct. Alaska Republican Party chairman Randy Ruedrich issued a call for Begich to resign so a special election could be held. Ruedrich argued that Begich’s win was illegitimate because of “improper influence from the ‘corrupt’ Department of Justice.” The same day Governor Sarah Palin seconded Ruedrich’s call, but later denied having said Begich should resign. Palin has been called a “mortal enemy” of Stevens.

The confusion pertaining to the relationship between Stevens and Palin came to an abrupt end in August of 2010 when Stevens was killed in a plane crash, the cause of which is still a mystery.  Five days ago, on April 21, 2011 the National Transportation Safety Board released numerous documents related to the plane crash. No analysis was provided in the accident files. A determination of the findings, probable cause and any recommendations will be made when the board meets May 24, of this year.

After Stevens was dead Palin described him as a “warrior” and “hero”.  It is unclear at this time if the cause of the plane crash might have been water in the gas tank. Maybe we will know more in May.

8 thoughts on “Sarah Palin’s Alaska: A Culture of Corruption

Add yours

  1. Out of respect for my family, please do not make vague innuendos about the cause of the crash being the same as the Menard crash. Theron Smith was my cousin, and one of the finest pilots in Alaska. I do not want his name linked to Sarah Palin. He does not deserve that. Thank you.


    1. theperilsofpalins,
      I am sorry if this post was offensive. I did not intend to suggest that anyone in the plane had anything to do with the crash. I simply find it interesting that two people who could have implicated Sarah Palin is a scandal died in plane crashes. Malia


      1. I know you didn’t mean any offense, Malia. I just can’t stand the stink of Sarah Palin being even faintly near my cousin, who was a wonderful person and great pilot. From what I know about that crash, it is more likely that Terry suffered a fatal medical episode than any problem with the plane. Still waiting for the NTSB report. Terry’s immediate family has been through hell, and all of us in the family very much want this resolved.


  2. Am sorry for your loss Peril – it is difficult for families of the “the forgotten” in a tragedy with someone famous.

    The thing that worries me is the “scrubbing” of computers / internet links / documentation, etc. Who has access & power to do that? We know the McCain people did a scrub on the AK State website of photos, documents or anything else contrary to his campaign position. The Johnston’s seemed to have picked up a “hard drive virus” resulting in mass corruption of data.

    I enjoyed when Palin wanted Begich to resign – “Oh my bad – he got cleared so even tho you were elected (with a D for Democrat) – we’ll just give it back to Ted ( with an R for Republican)” If I remember correctly, isn’t there an outfit attempting to get the Stevens documents released?


  3. To the Smith family member: No one would fault the pilot if there was tampering, which is not alleged, just interesting and of course, small planes are dangerous in Alaska even if you don’t cross Sarah Palin!


  4. Sorry but I WILL make the leap here and suggest that 2 seperate plane crashes connected to palins makes me wonder a LOT. I am totally convinced the man caught in the video at the Valdez airport was the REAL todd palin. Threatening, menacing and kind of scary going after an older man with a video camera. The face you saw in that video is of a man I consider probably dangerous and his affiliations -politically and personally leave a whole lotta room for the possibility of him being involved in this. And although I have a heart and feel sad for “perilsofpalin” IF she’s truely conneced to the pilot – it has nothing to do with what we know of palins and our right to question the unthinkable.


    1. Sharon,
      In the book Trailblazer, I think Bennett also wondered about a connection because he combined the story of Curtis being critical of Sarah on one page, and the next he was saying that Curtis died in a plane crash.


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